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Washington University

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation

Abstract

Sustainable use and maintenance of agricultural soils are important for maintaining long-term agricultural productivity and environmental quality. These issues are especially important in Cerro Punta, known as the breadbasket of Panama, which is experiencing severe erosion. While current practices and agrochemical usage damage soil health and function over time, application of organic material improves soil physic-chemical properties such as nutrient and total organic carbon (TOC) content. Bokashi, a fermented organic soil amendment with effective microorganisms (EM), is thought to be especially beneficial due to its ability to augment populations of soil microbes, which deliver plant-available nutrients to crops and improve pest resistance. Since bokashi should contribute to the buildup of organic carbon in soils and increase soil microbial biomass, soils with bokashi are expected to be higher in TOC than soils without bokashi. However, little research has been done on the effects of bokashi under field conditions or its use in the tropics, and little is known about its effects in Cerro Punta. The purpose of this study is to compare TOC content in soils with and without bokashi and to examine farmers’ perceptions regarding bokashi’s effectiveness in terms of soil fertility and pest control in Cerro Punta. Soil samples were collected from fields with and without bokashi and were analyzed for TOC content. Interviews provided background regarding agrochemical and organic matter application history as well as farmers’ perceptions of soil fertility and pest control. This study found significantly higher TOC values for soils with bokashi than soils with other common organic amendments. While bokashi users did not describe difficulties with pests or fertility less frequently than other growers, all bokashi users did perceive benefits in terms of fertility and / or pest control. These findings indicate that bokashi application may correspond to greater productivity and increased soil microbe populations, in turn fostering pest control and long-term soil health. Further research regarding the effects of bokashi use in Cerro Punta as well as other intensively farmed areas is recommended.

Disciplines

Agricultural Science | Agriculture | Agronomy and Crop Sciences | Community-Based Research | Environmental Health | Food Chemistry | Latin American Studies | Life Sciences | Other Pharmacology, Toxicology and Environmental Health | Other Plant Sciences | Plant Sciences

 

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